Congress to Legalize Propaganda

An amendment to legalize the use of propaganda against American citizens is being added to the latest defense authorization bill according to BuzzFeed.com.

The amendment would “strike the current ban on domestic dissemination” of propaganda material produced by the State Department and the independent Broadcasting Board of Governors, neutralizing the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 and Foreign Relations Authorization Act of 1987—both of which are supposed to protect the U.S. from our own government’s misinformation campaigns.

The bi-partisan amendment is sponsored by Rep. Mac Thornberry (R) Texas and Rep. Adam Smith (D) Washington State.

Thornberry warned that in the Internet age, the current law “ties the hands of America’s diplomatic officials, military, and others by inhibiting our ability to effectively communicate in a credible way.”

The bill’s supporters claim that the propaganda used overseas is too good to not use at home, and is needed to battle Al-Qaeda’s influence online.

“Clearly there are ways to modernize for the information age without wiping out the distinction between domestic and foreign audiences,” says Michael Shank, Vice President at the Institute for Economics and Peace in Washington D.C. “That Reps Adam Smith and Mac Thornberry want to roll back protections put in place by previously-serving Senators – who, in their wisdom, ensured limits to taxpayer–funded propaganda promulgated by the US government – is disconcerting and dangerous.”

The new law would give sweeping powers to the government to push television, radio, newspaper, and social media onto the U.S. public. “It removes the protection for Americans,” says a Pentagon official who is concerned about the law. “It removes oversight from the people who want to put out this information. There are no checks and balances. No one knows if the information is accurate, partially accurate, or entirely false.”

Critics of the bill point out that there was rigorous debate when Smith Mundt passed, and the fact that this is so “under the radar,” as the Pentagon official puts it, is troubling.

The Pentagon spends some $4 billion a year to sway public opinion already, and it was recently revealed by USA Today that the DoD spent $202 million on information operations in Iraq and Afghanistan last year.

In an apparent retaliation to the USA Today investigation, the two reporters working on the story appear to have been targeted by Pentagon contractors, who created fake Facebook pages and Twitter accounts in an attempt to discredit them.

Pentagon Spends $744k on Soccer Field for Gitmo Prisoners

The military spent $744,000 on “quality of life improvements” for cooperative captives being held in Guantanamo Bay by building a new soccer field for the prison that candidate Barack Obama promised to close when he was running for office of president of the United States.

The field as of yet does not have goals but it does have two guard towers, lights and surveillance cameras outside of building Camp 6 where the Pentagon imprisons about 120 of the 171 captives being held at Gitmo.

News photography was forbidden for security reasons, said Navy Cmdr. Tamsen Reese, prison camps spokeswoman, whose public relations team released Pentagon-approved photos of the 28,000-square-foot field.

The showcase soccer field, half the size of an American football field, is being built by Burns and Roe Services Corp., said a Pentagon spokesman, Army Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale. It should open in April, as the third recreation yard at Guantanamo’s main prison camp complex, a year after construction began on what is currently the largest expansion under way at the decade-old detention center.

The Obama administration estimates that it spends $800,000 a year per captive on basic operating costs for the detention center, whose staff numbers 1,850 government employees from contractors to guards.

When it was suggested that the price tag was excessive, Reese replied that this base’s remote location at times doubles construction costs.

Feds to Monitor Internet for Uprisings with Predictive Software

Apparently some U.S. Navy-backed researchers has come up with a bizarre explanation for the grass roots uprisings that took place in Egypt last year. According to their thesis the reason for the revolt was not a cry for freedom and equality but that the idea of overthrowing their dictator spread like an infection throughout the Egyptian population. What’s even more disconcerting is the antidote they have come up with.

A team at Aptima Inc., with funding from the Office of Naval Research, is developing software that would scour the internet, including news stories, social networks and blogs, to extract topics and phrases that are gaining traction online. The software would then track how the conversations proliferate, both geographically and over time.

The software would use epidemiological modeling to chart the discussions and their trajectory. It’s the same method used in public health initiatives to figure out where a particular illness started, and how it spread. Epidemiologists collect data and use the information to make educated guesses on how causality, health and environmental factors contributed to outbreaks in any given community.

Applied to the online world, epidemiological models would treat an uprising like some sort of viral outbreak. They’d break down and track  web conversations by the author of the post, what site it was published on and the comments that followed and try to figure out which parts contributed most to the spread of a revolutionary message.

Called “Epidemiological Modeling of the Evolution of Messages”  or E-Meme for short, the program would also use language recognition technology to determine what people in certain regions, of certain age groups, genders, or any number of other demographics, are discussing. From “next week’s election” to “link up and cause havoc.”

“We witnessed the profound power of ideas to replicate in what began as anti-government sentiment in Tunisia, then moved like a virus, reaching and influencing new groups in Egypt, Syria, and Libya,”  Dr. Robert McCormack, the project’s lead investigator, said. “If we can better understand the flow of ideas through electronic channels to sway the perceptions of groups, we may be better prepared to develop appropriate strategies, such as supporting democratic movements or perhaps dissuading suicide bombers.”

E-Meme is currently one year into a two-year development plan and will even be designed to go beyond those abilities. After tracking the proliferation of topics, E-Meme will analyze what kinds of attitudes those discussing them appear to have and then how those attitudes influence the conversation’s spread across the web.

“A lot of tools exist to do things like look at trending topics, or how many people online are talking about X,” McCormack added. “We want to take that several steps further. We’re interested in the dynamics of those conversations.”

McCormack and co. certainly have high hopes for the software’s abilities. Eventually, they’d like to analyze “sentiments” and “the perceptions of groups” to predict “what the online discussion will actually turn into.” Egypt’s relative peace compared to Libya’s rampant violence. Of course, McCormack notes, that kind of analysis remains “incredibly difficult to do.”

The evolution of software like E-Meme will no doubt remain a major Pentagon priority. In the past two years alone, we’ve seen the CIA invest in a company that scours the Internet to “predict the future,”  Iarpa consider the merits of person-finding via web pic and spotting rebel citizens via YouTube.

Of course, governments worldwide already do plenty of online monitoring. But for those living under power hungry dictatorial regimes in which citizens can be indefinitely detained or even assassinated by their government with no due process? The prospect of monitoring that’s smart enough to understand the online spread of ideas, and their subsequent real-world outcomes, could be downright devastating. Good thing for us we in live in the U.S. where..wait a minute, damn.

 

U.S. drone strike kills Marine and Navy medic..

Marine Staff Sgt. Jeremy Smith, 26, and Navy medic Benjamin D. Rast, 23, were killed by a missile strike when Marine commanders in Afghanistan mistook them for Taliban, even though the analysts watching the Predator’s video feed were unable to confirm that the men were actually enemy fighters.

A 381-page Pentagon report concludes that the Marine officers on the scene and the Air Force crew in Terre Haute, Indiana whom were controlling the drone were unaware that analysts watching the firefight via live video at a third location were not sure about the targets’ identity.

It is unclear which Marine officer ordered the airstrike because the names in the report are redacted. A senior Marine officer familiar with the investigation said commanders at the battalion level would have the ultimate authority, not the lieutenant who led the platoon during the battle.

The missile attack occurred in April at 8:51 a.m. in Helmand province after Smith and his platoon came under enemy fire. The platoon had split up while trying to clear a road near the crossroads town of Sangin, an area in which Marines were engaged in nearly daily combat with insurgents.

Smith, Rast and another Marine had separated from the others and had taken cover behind a hedgerow, where they were firing on insurgents in a cluster of nearby buildings. The Predator drone’s infrared cameras picked up the heat signatures of the three men and detected muzzle flashes from their weapons as the fired at insurgents.

Air Force analysts watching the live video noted that the gunfire appeared aimed away from the other Marines, who were behind the three. The analysts reported that gunshots were “oriented to the west, away from friendly forces,” the Pentagon report says. The Predator pilot in Nevada and the Marine commanders on the ground “were never made aware” of the analysts’ assessment.

Pentagon officials told Smith’s father that the combat veteran, on his fourth deployment, knew the airstrike was coming, but assumed the missile was aimed at a suspected Taliban position in a building 200 yards away. Smith declined to take cover in a canal with other Marines because he wanted to make sure the Predator hit the insurgent target.

The report blames the attack on a fatal mix of poor communications, faulty assumptions and “a lack of overall common situational awareness.” It recommends that a Marine lieutenant and two sergeants in Smith’s platoon be “formally counseled” and suggests detailed reviews of battlefield procedures, but it said no one involved in the attack was “culpably negligent or derelict in their duties.”

“The chain of events … was initiated by the on-scene ground force commander’s lack of overall situational awareness and inability to accurately communicate his friendly force disposition in relation to the enemy,” the report said.

In early 2009 a predator drone strike killed least 15 Afghan civilians after they were mistaken for a group of Taliban preparing to attack a U.S. special forces unit. Analysts located at an Air Force Special Operations Command in Florida who were watching live battlefield video from the aircraft’s high-altitude cameras warned that there were children present, but were disregarded by the drone operator and by an Army captain, who authorized the airstrike.

Congress considering raising fees for military retiree benefits…

Republicans and Democrats alike are signaling a willingness to make military retirees pay more for coverage as a part of Washington’s plans for fiscal austerity. The Pentagon is looking to cut health care costs that have skyrocketed from $19 billion in 2001 to $53 billion.

The Pentagon is providing health care coverage for 3.3 million active duty personnel and their dependents and 5.5 million retirees, eligible dependents and surviving spouses. Retirees outnumber the active duty, 2.3 million to 1.4 million. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta recently said personnel costs have put the Pentagon “on an unsustainable course.”

Veterans groups and retired generals are mobilizing to fight any changes, arguing that Americans who were willing to die for their country should be treated differently than the average worker. The American Legion has sent a letter to every member of the House and Senate asking them to spare health care benefits. The Veterans of Foreign Wars has urged its 2 million members, their families and friends to contact lawmakers and deliver the same message.

Both party leaders on the Senate Armed Services Committee – Carl Levin, D-Mich., and John McCain, R-Ariz. – recommended that the special deficit-cutting supercommittee look at raising enrollment fees and imposing restrictions on the military’s health care program, known as TRICARE. Current military members would be grandfathered in.

McCain and Levin also favored creating a commission to look at military retirement benefits and make recommendations for changes.

“Any changes to TRICARE that put the burden back on the beneficiaries is not supported by the American Legion,” said Peter Gaytan, the group’s executive director. He wondered about future benefits for his 19-year-old nephew who heads to Afghanistan in December.

Sens. Tom Coburn​, R-Okla., and Mark Warner, D-Va., members of the Armed Services panel, also expressed their openness to cost-cutting changes to the military’s entitlement program.

“I think we have to look at whether savings can be achieved, but we have to keep our promise to people who were recruited based on those benefits, and we also ought to look at whether there’s ways to improve the benefit structure,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said in an interview last week.

That prospect has Joe Davis, a spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, fearful of the next step.

“All our worries are starting to come to fruition,” Davis said.

The debt deal reached this past summer between President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans set in motion some $450 billion worth of cuts in projected defense spending over 10 years. The Defense Department budget has nearly doubled to $700 billion in the 10 years since the Sept. 11 terror attack. That figure doesn’t include the trillion-plus spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The 12-member, bipartisan supercommittee has a mandate to come up with at least $1.2 trillion in cuts by Nov. 23. If it fails to produce a plan or Congress rejects its proposal, automatic, across-the-board cuts of $1.2 trillion kick in, half of it from defense spending.

Levin and McCain also support an annual enrollment fee for TRICARE for Life, the health care program that now has no fee for participation. President Obama proposed an initial annual fee of $200.

Levin said future increases in fees should be tied to the same index used to determine hikes in the TRICARE Prime program, which has the lowest out-of-pocked expenses.

McCain urged the supercommittee to consider restricting working-age military retirees and their dependents from enrolling in TRICARE Prime. The retirees could still enroll in other TRICARE programs. McCain pointed out that the CBO has estimated that such restrictions could save $111 billion over 10 years. Active-duty personnel would still be enrolled in the program automatically.

In the House, lawmakers are less inclined to make any changes in health care benefits. Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, agreed to a slight increase in TRICARE Prime fees for working-age military retirees. The fees had been unchanged for 11 years at $230 a year for an individual and $460 for a family.

Asked about the recommendations from Levin and McCain to the supercommittee, McKeon’s office said the House has already made changes and suggested additional savings come from civilian rather military health care and retirement programs. The House vote to raise the annual TRICARE Prime fees by $2.50 for individuals and $5 for families.

 

Al Qaeda leader invited to the Pentagon for lunch after 9/11 attacks

Radical Islamic cleric, Al Qaeda operational planner and U.S. citizen, Anwar Al-Awlaki, was assassinated by the Obama administration via predator drone missile strike in Yemen today. Apparently the president now has the authority to sentence  U.S. citizens to death without any evidence being presented, charges being brought or trial taking place. What’s more disturbing than that though is that Fox News, yes that Fox News, claimed to have obtained documents last year that show that Al-Awlaki was invited to the Pentagon for lunch months after the 9/11 attacks.

Yes, you read that correctly.

According to Fox, Awlaki was taken to the U.S. Department of Defense’s headquarters as part of a military outreach program to the Muslim community during the aftermath of the terrorist attacks.

In an FBI interview conducted after the Fort Hood shooting in November 2009, a Defense Department employee told investigators that she helped arrange a meeting with Awlaki after seeing him speak in Virgina. One of the documents stated that the employee had ‘attended this talk and while she arrived late she recalls being impressed by this imam. He condemned Al Qaeda and the terrorists attacks. After her vetting, Awlaki was invited to and attended a luncheon at the Pentagon in the secretary of the Army’s Office of Government Counsel’.

Awlaki was apparently interviewed at least four times by the FBI in the week after the September 11 attacks because of his links to three of the hijackers. He was also said to have been linked to Fort Hood shooter, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, who emailed Awlaki before the attack as well as 2009 Christmas Day underwear bomber Farouk Abdulmutallab.
Former Army Secretary Tommy White who led the troops in 2001 has said he doesn’t recall having lunch or any contact with Awlaki.

White said: ‘If this was a luncheon at the Office of Government Counsel, I would not necessarily be there’.

The Pentagon has yet to offer an explanation as to how one of the world’s most wanted men with clear connections to other terrorists could have ended up at a lunch for Muslim reconciliation soon after the attacks.

Army spokesman Thomas Collins said: ‘The Army has found no evidence that the Army either sponsored or participated in the event described in this report’.

A former high-ranking FBI agent told Fox News that nine years ago when Alwaki went to the Pentagon lunch, there was tremendous ‘arrogance’ about the screening process and who they allowed in the building.

‘They vetted people politically and showed indifference toward security and intelligence advice of other’, the former agent claimed.

Fox News’ report on Awlaki via Youtube user “MoxNewsdotcom”

 

Pentagon lied about Navy SEALs being killed during rescue mission in Afghanistan…

Here we go again. I’m sure we all remember the story of Jessica Lynch, the female version of Rambo who turned out to be nothing more than a product of the Pentagon’s hype machine. There was Pat Tillman, the story of a patriotic football player who was killed in Afghanistan by friendly fire and the subsequent cover-up of the events that led up to his death. And now the Pentagon is at it again. After the killing of Bin Laden, members of the Navy SEAL team that took part in the mission to take out the terror leader were killed on a rescue mission when their helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan. New questions are being raised as it turns out that the SEALs were not rescuing anyone as previously reported, and were actually being called into to back up a group of Rangers who were in pursuit of fleeing Taliban. Check out CNN below actually doing a bit of reporting via Youtube user “Moxnewsdotcom”